Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Wings of Desire

Subject: Cinema
I had forgotten just how beautiful Wim Wender's "The Wings of Desire" is.

I had seen it in the theater back in the early days of my film-school epiphany, and the effect lasts to to this day on DVD. There's so much about this film to love that I don't even know where to begin.

Maybe just one thing to say... Peter Falk kicks ass in this one.

There's way more than just that to be said, so I'll try to say something a little more intellectual later, but I stand by what I just said.

Friday, July 30, 2004

*Sniff* -- No more Noir on INHD

Subject: Noir
Well, it looks like this morning was the last showing of Noir in hi-def on INHD2; there's nothing on the schedule for it for August. Nothing at all. It's gone.

They left it on ep 21, which would be quite a cliffhanger (dramatically and emotionally) for anyone who hasn't seen the series yet. But I suppose I've been the only one tuning in, so I guess it doesn't matter.

I'll have to switch to the DVDs for my morning workout now. At least I will when my friends are finished with the last two discs. Or maybe I can try to be a normal person and just listen to music or something.

In other news, Madlax ep 17 is out. There's a saying that an old friend of mine had:

"If you're not on the edge of your seat, your chair is too long!"

Marvelous stuff. I may just have to buy the Japanese DVDs of this one, and take the time to learn Japanese so I can watch them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Back in business

Subject: TV
Ahh, that giant expensive piece of plastic over on the end of my living room is functional again! The new wheel is even quieter than the old one was originally, which I hope bodes well for it's longevity.

Now I'm bloggin' on the big screen. I've been tweaking video settings all evening and I'm not even close to happy with the results yet. I'm still messing with FFDShow, but I think until the new TheaterTek 2.0 comes out with the new NVidia DVD decoder, I'm probably not going to be able to settle on it yet.

And I still have to get the video recording and time-shifting stuff underway. I think I'm going to go with SageTV and stream it over my network to my bedroom set and get rid of the extra cable box. And the costly "Premiums on Demand" feature. That should save me enough to finally join GreenCine and get my movies that way instead.

Which I'll do when I finally get DVD playback right.

I just wish I'd spend this kind of energy working on remodelling my house!

(Oh, and Madlax fansubs blown up to the big screen? Awesome! I'll post pics later.)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Noir OST

Subject: Noir
I know AnimeStuff-R has been perpetually extending their stint on Live-365 of the 3 Noir CDs, but I finally broke down and bought the imports from AnimeNation (hosts of one of the Noir forums I keep my eye on).

The 3rd disc with all the remixes is still on backorder, but the first two have made it, and are now safely ripped to my recently-repaired Zen MP3 player.

Along with a downloaded rip of the Madlax OST (which will tide me over until I buy that import too), I'm obsessing my way through the rest of the summer...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

On the small screen...

Subject: Noir
Well, the repair guy says the parts should be in Monday. With any luck I'll be back to watching real movies on a real screen and being my cinema-snobbish self again next weekend.

In the meantime, this past week I've been sampling a few more fansubbed anime series, since I can easily snag those off the 'net, and watch them on this pathetic little 19" monitor and cheesy computer speakers at my desk. (Remember when 19" was a good size for a monitor?)

I tried out "Melody of Oblivion". I gave it 4 episodes worth of chances, but it doesn't want to escape from being a cliche-ridden boredom festival from my point of view. A lot of the anime-fans on the various boards seemed to like it, but then again, they like all kinds of stuff that I can't stand, and tend to scoff at the stuff I like a lot.

I've mentioned before about "Samurai 7"; I'm downloading the 2 latest right now, but the more of it I've seen, the less enchanted I am with it. It's stylish, and has an interesting tone, but even though I claim not to be a purist, I think it's already contradicting a few of the basic premises of the original, and is left with a rather thin veneer on top. Still, it's better than most of the rest, so I'll probably keep watching for a while.

One thing I learned in my "research" is that most series are based either on popular Japanese comic books (yes, I know there's a word for that, and I'm not using it!), or Playstation games. It's actually rare that a series is created from scratch (like my beloved Noir and Madlax!). I think I've actually been able to tell the difference between a comic-y series and a film-y one (and the videogame ones are just unwatchable). And I find the comic-y ones, while usually oozing with a visual style, tend to lack the things that make it stand up better on it's own when it's done in "moving pictures".

That said, there are two more series that are based on popular comic books that I've been watching. One is "Monster", which, to describe it quickly, is like "The Fugitive" meets "The X-Files". It's a bit dark and creepy, a little mysterious, but not in a gross-out sort of way (at least not yet). I'm up to episode 9 and I'm probably going to catch up to ep 15 in the next couple of nights. It's been a long-running series on paper, so it's probably going to wind up being a lot of episodes too.

Which brings me to the much shorter 13-episode series I just finished. There's such a long gap between this post and my last one because every time I kept trying to figure out what to write about it, I had to step back from it for just a bit longer to try and deconstruct it a little more.

It's called "Gunslinger Girl", and it really got under my skin. It was a "recommended-if-you-like-Noir" series. After all, it's a stylishly done series about girl assassins in Europe. Only instead of Paris, it's in Italy. And instead of a pair of well trained young ladies up against the world, it's about a half-dozen 10- to 13-year old brainwashed & heavily conditioned little girls who had their skeletal structure and muscles replaced with carbon-fiber mechanisms, and are controlled by a secret (and likely illegal) goverment agency that roots out terrorist cells by any means necessary. Each girl is paired up with a Supervisor, who they are conditioned to obey, respect, and protect.

This one is just, how I can put it... evil. It's engineered to be so manipulatively heart-wrenching and tragic that you form a depression-inducing sympathy with these poor kids, and a terrible guilt complex when you're awed by the "cool" action sequences when they skillfully, and frighteningly, kick terrorist ass.

I still don't entirely know what to make of it. I don't think I'm going to rewatch it at all until the DVDs are released (it's been recently licensed, so you won't be able to get ahold of the fansubs anymore, at least not legitimately), and when I do, it will be with an eye to totally deconstruct it to find out just what the hell it did to burn itself onto my psyche like that.

But would I recommend it? I honestly don't know what to say. If you can take a dose of emotional manipulation that might haunt you for a couple of days (and don't mind it being punctuated with some graphic violence, which work like their own punches in the stomach in some ways), then it's really something else, and would be worth catching. But if you're trying to fight off a bout of depression or just want to live in a world where 10-year old girls are safe and happy and aren't put through hell on a daily basis, then maybe skip this one.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Noir Workout

Subject: Noir

I've been on a diet for the last two or three months.  Not one of the "brand name" diets, just the "eat right and exercise" oldie but goodie.

Well, I was getting the "eat right" part down.  I'd managed to spend a few minutes here and there on the exercise bike, because, having given up coffee as well, I needed to do something to get the blood flowing in the morning.  But I wasn't doing it consistently enough.

Anyway, with my HDTV in a noisy, unwatchable state, yet Noir being broadcast early every weekday morning, I had a brilliant notion:  I could force myself to watch Noir whilst on the exercise bike.  The bike makes enough noise to drown out the screeching, and the 25 minutes air time makes for a reasonable morning workout.  Add the natural tendency to want to pedal more aggressively when Salva Nos is playing, and I think I'm off to a good start.

In other news, since my non-exercise time is bereft of TV, I've been picking through Madlax scene-by-scene across three different fansub translations.  It's quite a puzzle to solve, and each episode leaves me anxiously awaiting the next one.  I'm really enjoying it.  I'm not as entwined with the characters as I was with Noir, but I'm very much liking every single one of them on their own merits.

One of the worst and best things that could happen is for the series to get licensed in the US before it's over in Japan.  The worst, because it's going to leave me hanging in the middle of this maddening mystery for months!  The best, because then I'll get a set of pristine DVDs with 5.1 sound to pump through my entertainment center for hours on end a lot sooner than I would if licensing doesn't happen for a while.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

1 for 3 with the toys this week

Subject: Gear
My beloved home entertainment system's centerpiece is the Samsung HLN567 56" rear-projection DLP HDTV monitor.

And it's now squealing the screech of the undead.

You see, the way DLP works is that it has a single chip, and the light reflects off of it and through a rapidly spinning colorwheel. Normally, this wheel sounds no different than an ordinary cooling fan, and is no distraction even in quiet movies. Apparently when the bearings go bad, it lets you know just how much.

But now the neighbors' dogs are agitated, and the set is unwatchable. *Sigh*

This was just in time for me to have finished assembling my brand new, totally-from-scratch HTPC, using all kinds of silent fans and power and doo-dads, with a top-end graphics card, an HDTV tuner, a 3.2Ghz P4, and 650GB of drive space for all those movies and MP3 files of mine. Quite the powerhouse, and my initial setup of DVD playback using the legendary FFDShow post-processing software showed that I was easily within tweaking-distance of my DVD-upscaling nirvana.

And, until the Samsung Banshee began to wail, it met my goal of "being quieter than the set". Now my refridgerator meets that particular goal. *sigh*

Finally, earlier in the week, my brand new Zen MP3 player totally died. It completely refused to turn on. I had it all set up with a little FM transmitter for the car, and it was an excellent addition to my evenings-sitting-by-the-lake-with-a-beer-and-a-good-smoke. I also had about 15 gig of playlisted tunes on there.

So much for taking a week off from work to enjoy myself.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Spinning in his grave, or...

Subject: Noir
So it was brought to my attention today that there's a new series in Japan based on the legendary "Seven Samurai" by my favorite filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.

"Wait, Fellini isn't your favorite filmmaker?"

Well, not really. "8 1/2" is my favorite film, but for #2, every Kurosawa film is clumped there in a tie. And at #2.00 is "Seven Samurai".

So I've downloaded the first two eps of "Samurai 7"; with not a little bit of trepidation because, horror of horrors, there's "mecha" in it. You know, giant robots. *sigh*

So, here I am, a guy who's working up an animated interpretation of "8 1/2", and I'm watching an animated-with-giant-robots interpretation of my #2 film.

(Needless to say, there won't be any giant robots in my film)

So I can't be too harsh on it. And since there's only 2 eps that have aired so far in Japan (2 eps every 2 weeks on PPV; the next 2 airing this Saturday, which means at least another week before I see them fansubbed) there's not enough to pass judgement yet. At least there's been enough to determine that it's not total blasphemy.

Since I'm not really a purist, I think it might have some potential. But, of course, I think it totally tossed, in the very first episode, a couple of the basic underlying themes of the original. But it remains to be seen if the core and spirit of the film is totally undermined in favor a superficial view of what it was really about. There's going to be 26 episodes running through Christmas, so there's plenty of opportunity for going somewhere interesting with this.

I'm a little worried, but life is too short to worry about such things. Right now, the question is "have I missed anything else" in the based-on-Kurosawa department? I'll research that question later. I seem to remember something about a "Yojimbo"-based effort...

Though I'd rather petition Criterion to put out a better DVD of "Yojimbo" than worry too much about an animated version.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


Subject: Cinema
I keep forgetting just how wonderful a film "Amelie" is.

It's made up of all these wonderful moments -- little bits of poetry captured on film. The moment that stands out the most to me is early in the film: Amelie's mother has just dumped the "suicidal" goldfish into the water. It turns around and stares back up at Amelie, blinking. The two stare at each other as the rain starts to fall, the raindrops breaking up the surface to the point where you can't see in any more.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Thursday is Madlax Day

Subject: Noir
It's Thursday!

That means it's time for the latest episode of Madlax!

Elda-F*in'-Taluta, bay-beee!